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Nelson Cruz officially declines qualifying offer from Orioles

No surprise that Nelson Cruz declined the Orioles qualifying offer. If he signs elsewhere, they'll now get a draft pick, and could end up with four of the first 84 picks.

Leon Halip

The 5pm deadline for baseball's free agents came and went on Monday evening and for the third straight year, every player who was extended a qualifying offer declined it. That includes Nelson Cruz, who is now on the free agent market with a lost draft pick attached to him once again.

Having just hit 40 home runs in the 2014 season, Cruz is in a much better place as he hits the market than he was a year ago. Not only has he demonstrated that he isn't old and breaking down, but he also showed that whatever affect Biogenesis may or may not have had without his performance, he could do just as well without it. That he would decline the one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer was no real surprise.

With Cruz declining the offer, if any team signs him, they will forfeit their highest remaining draft pick (top 11 picks protected), with the Orioles then set to receive a draft pick in between Round 1 and the Competitive Balance Round A of the draft. With Michael Cuddyer, a qualifying offer recipient, signing with the Mets on Friday afternoon, the compensatory pick will be slotted in after the #30 overall pick in the draft.

Compensatory picks are set in reverse order of the standings, as with the standard draft picks themselves. The only teams picking after the Orioles in each round of the draft are the Nationals and Angels, neither of whom have any departing free agents with qualifying offers attached. That means that if Cruz signs elsewhere, the Orioles will get the latest possible compensatory pick, which is still better than no extra pick.

The exact slot depends on how many of the other 11 players sign with different teams before next year's draft. It could be as late as pick #42. The Orioles gave up pick #55 to sign Nelson Cruz this year.

The O's would then have their second round pick slot in at pick #77, with their Competitive Balance Round B pick being #84 in the draft. That potentially gives the Orioles four of the first 84 picks in the draft. This year, they did not pick until #90 overall. Of course, that's assuming the Orioles don't sign any qualifying offer free agents themselves, or trade the #84 pick, as they traded this year's pick to Houston to get Bud Norris.

Thanks for all the homers, Nelson. It was a very good year.